England captain Joe Root says the three-match series against West Indies (England 10/11, West Indies 2/1, draw 7/2 – Series Winner odds) which starts on Tuesday is a great chance for some players to prove they can handle themselves on the Test stage.
England decided to omit their top two leading Test wicket-takers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, for the tour and the likes of spinner Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Chris Woakes and the uncapped Saqib Mahmood are all set to be given opportunities over the course of the month.
Ollie Robinson has been ruled out of Tuesday’s opening Test in Antigua (England EVS, West Indies 11/5, draw 3/1 – First Test odds) with a back spasm and reports say Leach will be named in the starting XI to provide a spin option at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
Root hopes in the absence of Anderson and Broad other players will step up and take their chance.
He said: “This is a great opportunity for a number of guys to step up, take on some different roles, really develop themselves as players and become more leaders within this group.
“We’ve seen that in small snippets so far. The real test will be, can the guys do it in the Test matches?”
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Mark Wood and Ben Stokes are among the more senior players in the squad while Alex Lees is hoping to make his Test bow and Dan Lawrence, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Foakes (wicketkeeper-batter) are all in line to feature in the opening Test as England make plenty of changes from their last outing, the fifth Ashes Test defeat in Hobart in January.
West Indies return to Test action after losing a two-match series 2-0 to Sri Lanka in November and December and head coach Phil Simmons has rejected suggestions the hosts have a a big advantage going into the three-match series against England with Broad and Anderson not involved.
He said: “You can call it an advantage but again, no Broad, no Anderson, we keep harping on that. But when you don’t have the experience, you have young fellas having to make their name and that is something that you have to guard against too.
“For me, you can’t be looking at that and saying well look, that’s a big advantage because then you tend to get complacent and you tend to get found out early.”
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